Feb 20, 2023

The A Method for Hiring by ghSmart

This doc shares ghSmart's hiring process that we use here at Zeus, all the way from sourcing candidates and interviewing them to officially hiring A players (not B nor C players).

The A Method for Hiring by ghSmart

What’s This?

✅ This doc shares our hiring process, all the way from sourcing candidates and interviewing them to officially hiring A players (not B nor C players).

Best Talent Sources

  1. Referrals from business network
  2. Referrals from personal network
  3. Hire external recruiter
  4. Hire a recruiting researcher
  5. Hire an internal recruiter

The A Method for Hiring from ghSMART

Start Here

  • Define what you want
  • Establish hiring criteria that fit your strategy and culture using a Scorecard. On this scorecard, include:
  • Mission - Purpose that explains why we need this role
  • Outcomes - What must get done, 3-8 items
  • Competencies - characteristics and skills, demands of organizational culture. Examples are treats people with respect, trustworthy, kind.

Screening Interview

The purpose of this interview is to get a feel for whether or not the candidate aligns with your scorecard (what you are looking for). You won’t know everything after this interview, but you’ll at least know whether or not you should proceed with the rest of the hiring process or suspend the process here.

  • Set expectations at beginning of the call: “I want to spend the first 10-15 minutes getting to know you, then I’ll open it up to you to answer any questions you might have.”
  • What are your career goals?
  • ~(Do these align with our company values and where we are trying to go? Someone who wants to be a manager doesn’t match an individual contributor position... move on)
  • What are you really good at professionally?
  • ~(Get them to list 8-12 and ask for specific examples, listen for strengths that match the job at hand)
  • What are you not so good at or not interested in doing professionally?
  • ~(Talented people won’t give a cookie-cutter bs answer)
  • Who are your last five bosses and how will they rate your performance on a 1-5 scale when talking with them?

Follow up on their answers by getting curious. Ask questions beginning with what/how/tell me more. Ask for examples.

Ask yourself - do this person’s strengths match my scorecard? Are there weaknesses manageable? Am I thrilled about bringing this person in for a series of interviews? You want to feel like you found the one. If you are hesitant or feel like you want to test them a little more, then screen them out.

Screen fast. Don’t linger with bad candidates.

Top-Grading Interview

The purpose is to discover patterns to predict future performance/behavior. Can take up to 3 hours.

Set expectations: “Thanks for coming today. We’re going to do a chronological interview to walk through each job you’ve held. For each job, we’ll go through five core questions. At the end, we’ll discuss some of your career goals and you’ll get to ask me a few questions. If we mutually decide to continue, we’ll be calling on references. This interview moves quickly but I want to make sure you have the time to tell your full story. Sometimes, I’ll want to move on to the next topic. Other times I’ll want to know more about a particular experience and so we’ll spend more time there. Do you have any questions about the process?”

First, ask about their education and their general experience there. Where did they fit in on campus? What kinds of relationships did they have with their professors?

Moving onto the meat and potatoes of this interview, ask the following six questions about each of their job experiences in the past 10-15 years. Go through their experiences in chronological order.


  • What were you hired to do? How was your success measured?
  • ~(Get a picture of their scorecard for this particular experience)
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • ~(Ideally, candidates will tell you about outcomes that match the outcomes of the position you are trying to fill. Be weary of when accomplishments don’t meet the expectations of the job. A players talk about outcomes linked to expectations. B and C players talk about events, people they met, or aspects of the job they liked without getting into results.)
  • What were some low points during that job?
  • ~(Rephrase over and over again until the candidate answers the question)
  • Who were some people you worked with? Specifically, what was your boss’s name and how do you spell that? What was it like working with him or her? What will he or she tell me are your biggest strengths and areas for improvement?
  • ~(A players talk about how they had a great relationship with the boss and received mentoring and coaching over the years. B players have a more reserved answer. C players call their prior boss a moron or other names without realizing they are talking to their potential new boss. Keep reframing questions until you get an answer.)
  • (If manager) How would you rate your team on an A, B, C scale when you arrived? Did you do anything to improve the team? What would you rate the team as when you left? (If not manager) What would your team members say about you?
  • ~(Do they accept the hand they are dealt when inheriting a new team? Or do they get to work on improvements? What changes do they make? How long does it take?)
  • What made you leave that job?
  • ~(Were they promoted, fired, or recruited? Are they running from something? A players are valued by their bosses. B and C players are not. Suspend judgement and get curious. Poke and prod. Get details. Don’t hire candidates that are pushed out of more than 20% of their jobs).

Tactics to Master the Top-Grading Interview

  • Interrupting - you must interrupt the candidate. If not, they will talk for 10 hours about things that aren’t relevant. It’s rude to let someone ramble.
  • ~Bad way to interrupt: put up a hand like a stop sign gesture and tell them to stop so that we can get back on track. This interrupts rapport.
  • ~Good way to interrupt: smile, match their energy and enthusiasm, and say “wow it sounds like ____. You were just telling me about that direct mail campaign. Can you share more about that?” Keep rapport.
  • 3 P’s - get clear on how valuable an accomplishment is: how does your performance compare to the previous year’s performance? How does it compare to the plan? How does it compare to peers?
  • Push-pull - don’t hire anyone who has been pushed out of 20% or more of their jobs. When asking why they left that job, you’ll hear a push response or a pull response. On your notes, just mark a simple + for pull or - for push.
  • Painting a picture - you know you’ll understand a candidate’s journey when you can see a picture of their journey in your head. This gives you great insight.
  • Stop at the stop signs - watch for shifts in body language and tonalities. Watch for inconsistencies. When you see an inconsistency, slam on the brakes and gather more info. Don’t come off like an investigative journalist, though. Instead, come off like a curious biographer trying to paint a picture of someone’s journey.

The Focused Interview

The purpose of this interview is to get one last look and even let team members get a look. This way, you can be certain that candidate and position is a perfect match. Do they match the criteria on the scorecard? Are they a cultural fit?


  • Focus on one thing: “the purpose of this interview is to talk about ______.•
  • What are your biggest accomplishments in this area?
  • Biggest mistakes and lessons learned?

Get curious after each answer. Keep asking until you understand what they did and why they did it.

Discuss with the team to see if they are a fit, then decide to either move forward or terminate the process.

The Reference Interview

The purpose of this interview is to ensure you move forward with an A player by calling on third-party sources to verify the information and data you have gathered on the candidate thus far.

  • Pick the right references based on the top-grading interview. Don’t just talk to the coach (the bosses). Talk to the players (their colleagues). Ask candidates to set up the interviews for you.
  • Conduct 4 reference interviews yourself and ask colleagues to do 3 more.


  • In what context did you work with the person?
  • What were their biggest strengths?
  • What were their biggest areas for improvement back then?
  • How would you rate their performance on a 1-10 scale. Why? Look for 8-10
  • This person mentioned they struggled with ____ in this job. Can you tell me more about that?
  • Discrepancies should be alarming.
  • Bad reference: fake praise, carefully chosen words, umms and uhhs throughout, if-then statements
  • Good reference: legitimate enthusiasm
Bad reference: fake praise, carefully chosen words, umms and uhhs throughout, if-then statements

Decide Who to Hire

  • The skill/will profile: Examine skill in relation to the candidate’s propensity to achieve each outcome on the scorecard. If they have a 90% chance of achieving it, rate this an A. If the data does not support this conclusion, give a B or a C. Repeat for each outcome.
  • ~Examine will, the core competencies the candidate brings to the table. If they have a 90% chance or more of displaying that competency, give an A. Give a lower rating if not. Repeat for each competency.
  • ~An A player’s skill and will matches your scorecard. If not, they are B or C player.
  • ~You’ll know you’ve hit the skill/will bullseye when you are 90% confident that the candidate can get the job done and be a top 10% performer at that job because their skills match the outcomes on your scorecard AND you are 90% confident they will be a good fit because her will matches the competencies of the role.
  • 🚩Red flags 🚩:
  • ~Exaggerates
  • ~Takes credit for the work of others
  • ~Speaks poorly of past bosses
  • ~Can’t explain job moves
  • ~Unsupportive of change
  • ~More interested in compensation and benefits than the job itself
  • ~(As a manager) has never had to hire or fire someone
  • ~Tries too hard to look like an expert
  • ~Is self-absorbed
  • ~Boasting about winning battles that aren’t important
  • ~“No, I agree with you but...” could mean someone has an overactive ego who needs to tell everyone how smart they are
  • ~A leader taking excessive credit
  • ~Passing the blame
  • ~Talking crap about other people
  • ~Making excuses
  • ~“That’s just me” statements that could indicate they are not willing to adapt to the culture of your company

Make Your Selection:

  • Take out all candidate scorecards
  • Make sure all candidates are rated on the scorecard
  • Look at the data and give a final grade. If there are no A’s, then restart the process
  • If you have one A, hire that person
  • If multiple A’s, then rank and hire the top A

Sell the Person on Joining Your Team

So many employers only care if it is a fit for themselves and their company and do not care if it is a fit for the candidate. Show you care. Show the candidate why they should join your team and how they fit in. Do not skip this step, otherwise you may lose your top candidate at the 11th hour.

Sell to the 5 F’s

  1. Fit - ties together the organization’s vision, needs, strategy, and culture with the candidate’s strengths and values. “Here is where we are going as a company. Here is where you fit in. This is why you are needed.” Show you are as much concerned about the fit for them as you are about the fit for you. Sell the vision and potential of the company. A players value the potential of the company.
  2. Family - what can we do to make this change easier for your family? Welcome the family. Take them out to dinner. Include the family in the decision-making process. Be sincere.
  3. Freedom - autonomy of the candidate to make his or her own decisions. We give you ample freedom to make decisions without micromanaging. Let them be free to be themselves.
  4. Fortune - financial upside. If you accomplish your objectives, you will likely make _____ over the next five years. Lend bonuses to scorecard attainment. Make the objectives/success metrics clear
  5. Fun - the work environment and personal relationships the candidate will have to look forward to.
Find out which of the 5 F’s they value the most and sell to that.
Sell throughout the entire process.